MATTHEW AND WILLSTROP RENEW CLASSIC RIVALRY
An English winner of the Canary Wharf Classic is assured for the eight time in 11 years after Nick Matthew and James Willstrop reached the final of the $50,000 PSA Tour event in London last night.
The Yorkshire pair will renew their long-standing rivalry at East Wintergarden, following their straight-games semi-final victories, world no.1 Matthew over Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez (pictured) and world no.5 Willstrop over England team-mate Peter Barker.
Matthew and Willstrop will meet for the 32nd time on the PSA World Tour today, with Sheffield’s Matthew aiming for his fourth Canary Wharf title and Pontefract’s Willstrop gunning for his fifth crown.
The pair last met in the British National Championship final in February when Matthew took the title 5-11, 12-10. 11-4, 11-8 in what he described as one of his best ever wins over Willstrop and he is hoping for a repeat performance in the capital.
“I’ve had a good record here for the last few years, but I lost to Peter Barker in the semi-finals last year,” said Matthew after his 11-4, 11-2, 11-9 win over Rodriguez in 38 minutes.
“Playing James tomorrow will be tough. He’s incredibly strong in this event as well, so the final tomorrow is going to be a hell of a match.
“But I feel really good after today’s match. I tried to start really strong and it went in my favour.
“I said to my coach this morning that I felt that there was a good performance coming soon and I felt like I was building some momentum this week and that came through tonight.”
The 33-year-old world champion knew he had to be mobile around the front of the court to combat the Colombian’s trickery, and his fast-paced attacking game prevented his opponent from building any momentum.
Rodriguez played several astonishing shots between his legs, but Matthew was finding all the corners of the court as he dominated proceedings throughout the match.
He said: “It’s nice to know that people think I’m speeding up as I get older, so these days it can sometimes be a relief to lose early in a tournament so that you can give your body a rest and prepare for the next tournament.
“That happened when I lost in the quarter-finals in New York and then won the Swedish Open and the British Nationals. You don’t always have much time to prepare between events.
“I have felt good on court this week and I was pleased to contain Miguel to just the one dive tonight when I was on match ball.”
Willstrop booked a repeat of the 2012 final – which Matthew won – by defeating Barker, the third seed from Essex, 12-10, 11-2, 11-7 in 50 minutes.
The Yorkshireman almost lost his first game of the tournament in the first as his London-born opponent drew level from 10-8 down, but the second seed recovered.
The second game was actually longer, although the scoreline reflected the number of errors from Barker as he attempted to bring massive rallies to a conclusion with ambitious shots that frequently clipped the edge of the tin.
Barker led 4-2 in the third and his fans in a sell-out crowd were willing him to make an impact on the match, but Willstrop strung five points together with some devastating drop shots on both sides of the court to regain the ascendancy.
“To win 3/0 against Peter is a very difficult thing to do, so I’m thrilled with that and I’m really enjoying the event and it’s great to be in a final,” said Willstrop.
“Nick and I are both relatively fresh going into the final as well, so if we both show up, then I think we’ll put on a good show. There’s no imbalance, so it’s a good position to be in for both of us.
“I love this event and it’s a pleasure to play here. I feel in a good frame of mind and it’s a big title and a big occasion, so it means a lot just to be in the final.”
Willstrop hates anyone bringing up the subject of his long losing run against Matthew in PSA events.
He said: “It might be something that everybody outside this glass court wants to talk about, but in reality it’s just the kind of thing that sport throws up.
“Naturally I hope it comes to an end on this court, where I also ended a similar run against Lee Beachill a few years ago. I have enjoyed some great moments on this court and naturally hope to put on another good performance in the final.
“It’s been a great week for English squash, with Laura Massaro winning the world title at the age of 30 and gaining a deserved reward for her years of hard work and dedicated training.
“With Nick as world champion and England the world men’s team champions, it has been a magnificent period for squash in this country.
“I am sure the crowd will be looking forward to another all-English battle between Nick and me. We’re both playing well and it should be a great match.”